College Football Corner: Maryland, Virginia Tech take different roads to victory

There are many ways to bake a cake. And there’s more than one way to win in college football. On a day that began with a showdown in Austin (TEXAS IS BACK — to breaking their fans’ hearts) and continued with upsets in South Bend (an 0-2 Notre Dame has NBC panicking) as well as College Station (giving Aggie fans no time to bask in the Longhorns’ loss), the local schools delivered a mixed bag.

While Navy and Virginia both lost in disturbing fashion, Maryland and Virginia Tech posted dominant victories in different ways. The Terps of 2022 have the feel of a team that will outscore you, as Taulia Tagovailoa is better than his record-setting form of last year and has more weapons (providing they stay healthy) at his disposal. And in a market correction victory over Boston College, the Hokies have at least momentarily recaptured the “hard-hat, lunch-pail” vibe that made Frank Beamer’s teams feared. The key for both teams is how their other unit (Maryland’s defense and Virginia Tech’s offense) will complement their strength this fall. Because while there’s more than one way to win, there is certainly one way to lose — and that is lack of consistency on both sides of the ball. The Terps D and Hokies O are on notice.

Maryland (2-0) didn’t waste any time at Charlotte, reaching the end zone on their first five possessions of the first half and on their first three second half drives in a 56-21 thumping of the 49ers. For those who were able to find “Stadium TV” on their provider, it was good news. The rest of us got to follow via Johnny Holliday on radio and the game stats on computer.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns while running for a fifth. This game’s top targets were Jacob Copeland (four catches for 110 yards and two TDs) and Jeshaun Jones (six grabs for 71 yards and two scores). The offense converted seven of nine third downs and averaged 6.9 yards per carry, with this week’s breakaway scores brought to you by Antwaine Littleton (59 yards) and Colby McDonald (49 yards). Beau Brade led the defense with six tackles.

Terrapin Troubles: The D did not earn an A or even a B, managing just one sack against a team that threw the ball 52 times. The defense allowed touchdown drives of 67 and 80 yards in the first half, and on Charlotte’s first possession allowed three fourth down conversions (one via penalty). Eight penalties won’t sit well either for a team looking to play a “clean game.”

Next: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against 2-0 SMU. The Mustangs are averaging 47 points per game. Giddy up.

Navy (0-2, 0-1 AAC) trailed Memphis 13-7 at the half but saw the game turn on two plays early in the third quarter: the Tigers threw a 79-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage, followed by a Midshipmen fumble on the first play of the following drive. But after the 37-13 loss, Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo lamented another play — a halfback option pass he called in the second quarter that was intercepted in the end zone. At the time Navy trailed 10-7 and seemingly had the game’s momentum … only to see it slip away.

Midshipmen Medals: Tai Lavatai threw for a 62-yard touchdown (Anton Hall bobbled the ball before collecting it and taking it to the house) and ran for another score. The running game was much improved from last week (215 yards) and saw four different players post 10+ yard gains. John Marshall paced the defense with 15 tackles as Navy held the Tigers ground game in check for most of the day (less than 3 yards per carry).

Midshipmen Miscues: Memphis converted 9-15 third downs and scored the first four times they had the ball in the second half to put the game away. Seth Henigan threw for 415 yards and was looking deep all afternoon, completing passes of 37, 41, 50, and 79 yards.

Next: Sept. 24 at 1-1 East Carolina after a much-needed bye week.

Virginia (1-1) began with a bang at Illinois, recording an interception and then a fumble recovery on the Illini’s first two possessions (treating their QB Tommy DeVito like a rag doll). Unfortunately, the Cavaliers could only muster a field goal out of two drives that began on the Illinois side of the field and that bang turned out to be the whimper of a 24-3 loss as DeVito might not be a made man but he can certainly pull off the Lufthansa Heist (Editor’s Note: please ignore the mandatory “Jersey Boys” and “Goodfellas” references).

Cavalier Congrats: Langston Long led the defense with 13 tackles and a fumble recovery while Anthony Johnson made six stops and recorded an interception. Again, when the defense records two takeaways on the first two possessions that’s all you can ask for. Daniel Sparks averaged 46.2 yards per punt.

Cavalier Concerns: The offense had issues all afternoon, going 0-16 on third down. Brennan Armstrong completed 13-35 passes for 180 yards and two interceptions while getting sacked five times. The running back rotation gave him little relief, gaining 47 yards on 16 carries. The defense allowed 198 yards on the ground and wasn’t able to limit DeVito (68% completion rate) like Indiana had the week before.

Next: Saturday at 2 p.m. against 1-1 Old Dominion (Hokie fans will be watching).

Virginia Tech (1-1, 1-0 ACC) not only recorded an interception on their first defensive possession against Boston College, but the Hokies capitalized on the opportunity and scored a touchdown that would give them the lead for good in a 27-10 victory. While it didn’t erase the week one loss at Old Dominion, it was the necessary positive step forward for Coach Brent Pry’s team.

Hokie Highlights: The defense ruled the night with an iron fist, holding the Eagles to minus-one yard on their first six possessions and 2-15 on third down on the evening. Dax Hollifield notched eight tackles with a sack. Quarterback Grant Wells posted a turnover-free night and when BC finally reached the end zone to make it a one possession game led an answer drive that covered 78 yards on nine plays, ending in a 2-yard touchdown pass. Williams Ross kicked 38 and 49-yard field goals and there were NO botched snaps this week.

Hokie Humblings: The offense still needs to get in gear after being held to 5.6 yards per pass and 3.2 yards per carry. There may be a Saturday when Wells and company are going to have to win a game, and I don’t think this attack is there just yet.

Next: Saturday at 11 a.m. against 0-2 Wofford. Hitting the snooze on my alarm.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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